“As an operator, we have to ensure that there is a clear benefit (of new technology) to all stakeholders in order to secure all the needed resources,” Brian Tarr, senior well engineer Deepwater Technology for Shell, said. “A strong business focus is critical to move technologies through development through learning to deployment for value creation.”
Addressing participants of the IADC Dual Gradient Drilling Workshop on 5 May in Houston, Mr Tarr discussed barriers to implementation of dual gradient drilling technologies and any other new energy industry technology, offering Shell’s strategy for technology implementation as an example.
According to Mr Tarr, various types of barriers can impede technology implementation: resistance to change, perception of an increased risk profile, perception of limited scope for implementation, perception of a weak business case and competition for required resources such as time, money or personnel. The barriers can be classified as threats, but there can be corresponding opportunities. “Alternatively, barriers can be classified as weaknesses. In those terms, there could be corresponding strengths,” he said.
Technical issues, such as demonstrating basic technical feasibility and using HAZID/HAZOP to develop safe equipment configurations and procedures, are actually the easiest to overcome, according to Mr Tarr. “The hardest barriers to overcome are usually business issues. Any new technology must make business sense not only to the operator but to all parties involved.”
The Shell strategy for new technology implementation is to risk-rank all the barriers according to the likelihood of occurrence and the corresponding consequence. To move forward in the process, all unacceptable risks must be eliminated or mitigated to an acceptable level. “Assessing the highest-risk items first helps us to identify the quickest route to failure,” Mr Tarr said. “So early on in the technology maturation process we can eliminate things that really aren’t going to make it … it’s a competition. We don’t want second-rate horses in the race too often. So we try to identify all the risks in a systematic risk register and address the key risks.”
Not only are there technical risks, but there also are economic, commercial, organizational and political risks. “None of these can be overlooked,” he said. “As we go through the process of moving through each stage and associated individual steps, it gets harder and harder to climb that ladder. It’s not the same at every stage. It may take more money or more effort to overcome barriers in each stage.”
One big opportunity exists for new technology to fall into what is termed the technology chasm, from which it cannot recover. This chasm is defined as the handover from development to deployment. This chasm is “where a lot of technologies end up and never get deployed,” Mr Tarr said. “The handover (to operations) is always going to be more challenging than the steps to execute the first field trial.”